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Many thanks to DMVfan123 over at ResetERA for this extremely comprehensive summary. GAMEPLAY: In a way, the combat dance is reminiscent of From Software’s Souls games, but not in a punishing way. Respawn wants players to succeed, but not without a little effort. The Force is also used to augment combat, allowing the player to mess with enemies in satisfying, clever, and powerful ways. When the saber is sheathed, Respawn’s vision for the adventure has classic gaming roots and is inspired heavily by the Metroid series, pushing players to freely explore worlds, and come back to them later with new powers that can be used to reach different areas. Never once do players see a waypoint on the screen telling them where their next objective is. Respawn doesn’t want to hold your hand, and instead hopes you plot your own path through dangerous worlds that are teeming with just as much hostile wildlife as heavily armed Imperial Forces. With a lead in hand, Cal has BD-1 bring up the map of the region, which is displayed as a 3D hologram projected from one of the droid’s eyes. The game doesn’t pause at this point, so the player needs to be careful when using the map. A clear holographic display of the environment appears, complete with geographic and industrial elevations. The map colors in areas the player has been to, and also highlights points of interest in gold. The map is a critical component that helps players explore. Jedi: Fallen Order is one of the few games out there that doesn’t use a waypoint system. Greez willfully transports this small group of characters to any planet at any time – both to progress the story and for freeform backtracking. We don’t know how many worlds there are yet, but the concept art and clips from the trailer hint at a good number of them. Asmussen says the ratio of established Star Wars planets and new planets original to Jedi: Fallen Order is about half and half. Each world houses a hub where the ship lands. Here, the player can return to rest up, save, apply skill points, and spark conversations with characters to learn more about them, the worlds, and overall story. The ship also offers other activities Respawn doesn’t want to reveal just yet. When players choose a new destination, the flight is handled in real-time, meaning there won’t be any load screens, giving the player time to engage with the different activities on the ship. Along with Bracca, the quest to restore the Jedi Order takes Cal to Kashyyyk, the wookiee homeworld. At this point in the game, the player has complete freedom to chart their own course through the wilderness. Some areas feature multiple paths that can freely be explored, while other areas may have paths that are blocked or inaccessible, perhaps requiring an unlearned Force power or gadget to open them up. “We looked at the structure of Metroid Prime closely,” Asmussen says. “It’s not exactly like Metroidvania. We also looked at games like Bloodborne and Dark Souls that have the same types of methodology. We studied those games and they inspired us to find an experience that works well for our game.” As players duck off into the corners of environments, Cal stumbles upon chests that reward him with a variety of upgrades. These chests hold items that can extend his Force and health meters, as well as skill points that he can cash in on a skill tree to unlock new abilities and move sets. Respawn wouldn’t go into what kinds of skills Cal can unlock, but did give us a look at the screen, which features a sea of interlinked circles. Since Cal doesn’t heal over time during combat, he needs to rely on health canisters to get a boost on the fly. If his health is low, he can snap his fingers or ask BD for help (performed by pressing up on the d-pad). The canister pops out of a compartment in BD’s casing, and Cal catches it, and within just a second, applies it to himself for an immediate shot of health. These health canisters function exactly like Dark Souls’ Estus Flasks, and won’t replenish until the player finds a save point or returns to The Stinger Mantis. Retreating to a save point comes with a risk, however, as enemies will respawn. Determining when to burn health canisters is part of the strategy tied to exploration. BD periodically leaps off of Cal’s back to gather items he sees that can be used to synthesize new canisters. Asmussen says obtaining additional canisters is a significant reward, as BD starts the game with only two of them. Exploration also unearths other chest types that contain cosmetic items to change the way Cal, BD, and The Stinger Mantis look. And yes, lightsaber parts are a part of that equation. If a blue blade isn’t your style, you can find different colors, hilts, and other components that alter the saber’s overall design. Just don’t expect to get a red blade for a Jedi. One of the Force powers Cal taps into frequently is close to the hearts of many of Respawn’s employees who worked on the Titanfall games. He can wall run for a good 15 feet, but only on specific surfaces that have a visual language players will get to know. Jumping toward a wall is as easy as hitting a button. Cal can also call upon the Force to perform a double jump, a move that breaks the laws of gravity in most games, but actually makes sense given the Jedi’s power pool. When Cal doesn’t need to use the Force, he can swing on vines hanging from trees. As Cal explores Kashyyyk’s wilderness, BD can scan fallen enemies and the environment to give the player a chance to learn more about the world through log entries. Respawn hasn’t settled on whether or not these optional discoveries will give players potential skill points if enough are collected, but does want to reward all forms of exploration. Kashyyyk was an impressive first look that featured plenty of puzzles and reveals I don’t want to spoil for you. This gameplay slice takes place roughly a few hours into the game, and lasts for around 30 minutes, which Asmussen says gives us a look of just 15 to 20 percent of this planet, implying Jedi: Fallen Order may be somewhat lengthy. The KXes are fast and athletic, and can pick up Cal by the throat and slam him to the ground, taking a huge chunk of his health away, all while offering a comedic quip. Some battles include vehicles like an AT-ST, which stomps around on the battlefield and alternates between firing lasers, rockets, and mines. The player can send all of these attacks back through the Force. Some troopers have energy shields on the end of their blaster, others have flamethrowers that can keep Cal at bay, and some even wield rocket launchers. These powerful foes still fall into Jedi: Fallen Order’s grunt category, yet each can give Cal a run for his credits. Asmussen says the game features a variety of boss and mini boss battles, and the creatures that appear in each world are unique to those places – meaning you won’t come across a different colored version of a beast you fought on a different planet. Almost every button press in the game has an augment that is executed by either double-tapping a button or holding it. Respawn designed the controls in way that all powers can be used at any time, and the player will never be asked to dive into a menu to swap them out. The controls are mapped in ways that are easy to grasp. On the PlayStation 4 controller, lightsaber strikes are mapped to square for basic swings and triangle for focused attacks. If the player taps triangle, they execute a heavy attack, but if they hold the button, Cal performs a force-powered, close-the-gap dash. The X button is jump, which can be used for leap attacks when followed up by either saber strike. The Force powers are all assigned to shoulder buttons. Cal may still be learning the ropes, but he has a firm grasp of Force push (R2), pull (L2), and a power that is unique to him called slow (R1). Slow lives up to its name and will slow down one enemy at a time to a near motionless state, which opens up a short window of time to circle around them and hopefully take them out. Slow can also be used on lasers, which hover in the air and move forward slowly, looking similar to the bolt Kylo Ren froze in time in Force Awakens. The combat system ends up being more about counters and finding clever ways to catch enemies off-guard, or deplete their armor meter to stagger them. The player also has to keep an eye on the stamina, Force, and health meters to know what tools to use. The calculated dance ends up being surprisingly intense, making you think intimately about every little action you unleash. It ends up being circular, with both sides looking for opportunities; a routine fans of From Software’s work have come to know well. STORY/CHARACTERS: The game begins on the planet Bracca, a Mid-Rim world the Empire uses as a shipyard where derelict starships are dismantled and harvested for parts. “They’re tearing down these old Republic vessels, which is symbolic to the Fallen Order,” says Stig Asmussen, Jedi: Fallen Order’s director, who also directed God of War 3. During the heart of the Clone Wars, Cal was learning the ways of the Force. Asmussen says he may have gone on a few missions, but he wasn’t sent out by the Order like Anakin and Obi-Wan to deal with major issues. In the aftermath of Chancellor Palpatine’s Order 66 (which decrees all Jedi are enemies of the Republic), Cal’s entire life was turned upside down, and he had to abandon everything he knew, turning from a purveyor of hope to an enemy of the state. Respawn doesn’t want to say much about Cal or his history, implying he could be someone significant. But unlike Rey’s origin story in The Force Awakens, which created more questions than answers, Cal’s origin is revealed as the game unfolds. Players won’t be left hanging waiting for a sequel to fill in the gaps. These revelations aren’t delivered in flashbacks, but instead are learned as the game moves forward; Respawn wants to deliver as much story as possible in real-time as the player still controls Cal. Some slower or more impactful moments are handled in cutscenes, but most of the narrative sequences don’t disrupt gameplay and are woven into the action. Cal (who is brought to life by Cameron Monaghan) managed to stay hidden on Bracca for years, but ends up being outed through an event Respawn again doesn’t want to reveal. Someone on the wrong side learns he’s with the Jedi within minutes of the game’s beginning, and the player is suddenly hunted by the Empire. It doesn’t sound like there is much of a grace period to explore Bracca early on. As stormtroopers and the Emperor’s finest hunters are called in to execute Cal, he finds help from an unexpected source. “He comes in contact with a mysterious lady, a former Jedi Knight named Cere (played by Debra Wilson) who thinks she has a shot at restoring the Jedi Order,” Asmussen says. “Cal is skeptical of the mission, and unsure of the Jedi Order, but he believes in survival. She makes a pact with him: ‘If you help me out, I’ll help you finish your Jedi training.’ From what we know, during this period of the Emperor’s rise to power, most of the Jedi have gone into hiding or are dead. After years of war, the galaxy is at a point of acceptance with the Empire’s directive. Worlds are looking for a faction to rise up and reestablish control. Many of them willfully accept the help of the Empire and turn a blind eye on the highly trained weapons it sends in, like Darth Vader and the Inquisitorious group to eradicate the Jedi. Could Cere know the location of a large group of lost Jedi? Again, Respawn wants to keep the story under lock and key, but whatever Cere knows becomes the game’s McGuffin to a degree. Cere is a constant in Cal’s life, but she won’t be with him on the battlefield. Cal is sent on missions while Cere handles reconnaissance. Cal instead develops a tightknit friendship with a small droid named BD-1. Much like a boy and his dog, Cal and BD are inseparable. While BD can freely walk around on the terrain on his little AT-ST-like legs, he mostly sits on Cal’s back, which of course expedites traversal and exploration. This small crew ends up being dangerous cargo aboard a ship called The Stinger Mantis, a new vessel type Respawn and Lucasfilm created for the game. Star Wars artist Doug Chiang helped bring this unique ship to life. The ship’s exterior is blue and silver (but can be customized by the player), and the interior is darkly lit with orange and black hues on the seats and walls. Living quarters are in the back and a small lounge is in the center, as is a galactic map that the player can interact with. The ship has one large wing jetting up like a dorsal fin. It also has a small turbine that can rotate with the wing for various flight needs. The engines on the backside burn blue when taking off. This unique vessel is helmed by the equally unique captain Greez Dritus, who is part of a stout alien species that is another new canonical creation made by Respawn and Lucasfilm. “Greez’s inspiration was John C. Reilly and Mr. Furley from Three’s Company,” Asmussen says with a laugh. When players choose a new destination, the flight is handled in real-time, meaning there won’t be any load screens, giving the player time to engage with the different activities on the ship. Along with Bracca, the quest to restore the Jedi Order takes Cal to Kashyyyk, the wookiee homeworld. In a brief lull of the action, another unexpected guest drops in, this one slamming onto the window right in front of Cal. We see a middle-aged man in green armor who is curious about the occupants of this commandeered Imperial vehicle. It’s Saw Gerrera, the Clone Wars veteran who was played by Forest Whitaker in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. “Hey. Who are you?” he yells through the window. The voice is immediately recognizable – Whitaker has reprised his role, much like he did in episodes of Rebels. Once a part of the Jedi Order, the Second Sister turned on her people and joined the Emperor’s Inquisitorious. She now kills Jedi. She first appeared in the comic book Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, but was first created by Respawn and Lucasfilm’s story group. Her appearance was an Easter egg for the forthcoming game. Companion droid BD-1 took over two years to design, a process that had Respawn and Lucasfilm working closely together to figure out his look, personality, sound, and overall functionality both in the game and for the greater Star Wars universe. One of the starting points came from an appreciation of the bond established between a bird and dog in Charles Schulz’s Snoopy. BD-1 is, in essence, a hybrid of both Woodstock and Snoopy’s personalities. “He’s kind of a bird that tweets around, and is also loyal like a dog,” says game director Stig Asmussen. BD’s antennae basically mimic dog ears, in terms of reacting to sound and situations. The final touch in making BD-1 a legitimate piece of Star Wars’ lore is enlisting the audio talents of Ben Burtt, a sound designer who has been a part of most of the Star Wars movies, TV shows, and games. He created the voices of Chewbacca, R2-D2, and even Darth Vader’s breathing. Burtt created the chirpy voice for BD-1, and works closely with Respawn on all of the droid’s audio. DEVELOPMENT: Prior to beginning development of Jedi: Fallen Order, Respawn pitched EA on a Star Wars project, but the two sides couldn’t agree on a deal that made sense. Director Stig Asmussen and a small team of developers at Respawn then set out to create a new intellectual property that featured third-person melee combat. When a demo was ready, Respawn pitched it to EA, which loved what was there, but thought it had great potential as Star Wars game. Respawn’s CEO Vince Zampella asked his team if they would rather continue working on the original IP or turn it into Star Wars. The team enthusiastically said “Star Wars.” The next step was getting the blessing from Lucasfilm. Respawn pitched the melee action game, but Lucasfilm was wary, as Jedi are not freely thrown around and are a sacred part of the franchise that need the right guidance. Asmussen and his team eventually delivered enough information and assurances to make Lucasfilm come around on the idea for a Jedi game. Lucasfilm helped Respawn figure out the era and story for this particular Jedi tale. IMPRESSIONS:
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